Noisy Deadlines

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

  1. Machinehood by S.B. Divya, 416p: This book is full on ideas and questions about artificial intelligence and how it can integrate with humans. It presents a future dominated by the gig economy, humans have to take advanced enhancement pills to compete with bots and weak AI's (WAI) in the labour force, people have online “tip jars” to receive money from other users that are watching their live social media feeds. It is a disturbing view of the future where there are swarms of nano cameras everywhere, watching and broadcasting everything you do to the internet. The main plot point is the conflict raised by a movement to defend WAI's and bots rights and end the inequality between humans and artificial intelligence. It also touches on the human+machine integration, and how that could change the world. It has lots of interesting ideas, it shows personal insights of the day to day lives of the characters, new views on religion, glimpses of life in space stations, some simplified politics conflicts. I thought that the final resolution of the plot was too easy, and a little bit too rushed.

  2. Children of Time (Children of Time #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky, 599p: Earth is dust, humans are looking for new planets to settle. Generation ships travelling for thousands of years, genetically engineered spiders, failed terraformed planets, first contact, a look into an alien society evolving through the years. Even though there are wars and the classic conflicts for power, I liked the optimistic ending.

  3. Honor and Shadows (Starlight's Shadow #0.5) by Jessie Mihalik, 70p: Short story, not much to it. Just another day in the life of Captain Octavia Zarola, trying to do good in the world.

  4. A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas, 419p: It was not my cup of tea. I didn't really like any of the main characters, I thought the Fae magic powers were loosely explained, it felt limitless and inconsistent.  The romance didn't convince me at all. Can’t say more without huge spoilers.

  5. Avogadro Corp (Singularity #1) by William Hertling, 302p: What if a generative artificial intelligence is incorporated into an email program to help users write more compelling messages based on data from all the emails that are sent back forth? Sounds familiar? What if this AI receives a directive to benefit its own development and starts to write emails on its own?  It was written in 2011 and it already talks about generative artificial intelligence.  An interesting premise, it got me hooked to till the end.  It made want to continue reading the series.

  6. Homo Distractus: Fight for your choices and identity in the digital age by Anastasia Dedyukhina, 282p: Lots of references about how technology is impacting us and possible strategies to fight the downsides. I enjoyed the first chapters talking about how devices affect our focus, the advantages of deep reading, the ineffectiveness of “multitasking” and the importance of making space for boredom. It is still relevant today.

#readinglist #books #reading

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I’m reading the book “Homo distractus: Fight for your choices and identity in the digital age” by Anastasia Dedyukhina, and I enjoyed the section that discussed our society’s increasing sense of lack of time.

The perception that there’s not enough time to do things comes from the increasing amount of information we have to deal with today. Emails, text messages, news updates, endless social media feeds…etc.

And the apps designed to distribute all this “content” make us believe that it’s important to “share” all this information, as fast as possible, even without truly understanding the message. The author explains:

“Sharing information, encouraged by social media, is another example of how tech design creates the sense of urgency and the lack of time in our minds. The faster we share, the more rewarded we are by getting our likes or shares.” — Homo Distractus, Chapter 4: The Time Crisis

So, it seems social media spaces are now this crazy noisy place, where everybody is shouting something, trying to get attention (rewards), without even knowing what they are shouting about:

“By sharing whatever captures our attention, and not what we know is credible, we just contribute to the overall noise making ourselves and others even more overwhelmed.” — Homo Distractus, Chapter 4: The Time Crisis

And that just creates more noise… it’s overwhelming. It's too scattered, it's too noisy, too random. This “Always Keep Up” method of being online is draining (thanks ~loghead for the term) and I can’t stand it anymore (I’m looking at you, Mastodon!).

#noisymusings #socialmedia #internet #attentionresistance

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

  1. Foundryside (The Founders Trilogy #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett, 503p: I enjoyed the magic system of giving the power of sentience to objects. It adds a whimsical feel to the story. I loved the main character, Sancia: she's a rogue/thief, living in the outskirts of society getting by as best she can. She is smart and independent. She has a dark past, being a victim of unmentionable experiments that left her with uncomfortable (but useful) abilities. One of her goals is to get enough money to cure herself. The world building is cool with an everyday magic aspect based on using ancient alphabet to imbue commands to objects and convince them to behave in certain ways. This process is called “scriving”. For example, a sword can be “scrived” to believe it is as sharp as ten blades in one, capable of cutting through nearly anything. The last third of the book dragged a little bit, but overall, it was very interesting with a main character that I sympathised with.

  2. The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax, 304p: It's an interesting account of some analog technology that came back after the phase of digitisation that started with the first computers in the 60's and 70's. My favorite chapters were the ones about the revenge of Vinyl and Moleskine notebooks. After the music industry distribution went digital, culminating in music streaming services, there was a movement to get back to vinyl. Records pressing plants were restored and put into operation again.  Moleskine started a designer trend towards nice and beautiful paper notebooks. Film directors helped the movement for analog film movies again, film producing factories were re-opened and it's possible to get new Polaroid and Instax cameras nowadays. It also touches on board games, meditation sessions in the workplace, high-end analog wristwatches, print books: all things that are contrasting with the digital environment we live in today. The author praises these analog experiences, reasoning on why we need them more than ever and points out these markets tend to grow even more. Sometimes I found the tone of the arguments too geared towards consumerism and these non-digital options were just creating a market for wealthier people to consume more things. I've been reading digital books for years and I don't plan on going back to paper books (the irony of reading a book about non-digital things in an e-reader).

  3. Atlas Alone (Planetfall #4) by Emma Newman, 320p: This book takes place 6 months after the events of Planetfall #2 (“After Atlas”). We have Dee as our main character and she gets unknowingly involved in a suspected murder inside the colony ship. As we know from the previous book, Dee is an avid gamer, and she soon joins elite game servers, or “leets” where the gamers real life abilities are represented in game, making these games extremely challenging. This is another unputdownable book by Emma Newman with virtual reality immersive games, discussions about AI and consciousness, corporate indenture, social justice and revenge. It's all intertwined with the main character's journey confronting her traumatic past while she investigates and plans for the future. It's intense, thrilling and the ending was breathtaking. 

  4. Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself by Nedra Glover Tawwab, 282p: This is a light read on the topic, offering practical examples on phrases to express verbally our boundaries. I had the impression the topic was over simplified. The author mentions a lot of “results” from polls she conducted in her Instagram account with her followers and that took away some of the credibility of the facts presented. 

#readinglist #books #reading

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Today was less chaotic than usual. I started with a planning block and after some hesitation, I planned the whole day!

One meeting was cancelled, so I regrouped by 11am to do some email processing. Right after lunch, I reorganized my schedule in my “Clarifying/Organizing” block and the afternoon went as planned.

I focused on 3 important tasks and felt less overwhelmed. I finished task #2 earlier than expected, so I started with task #3 in that same work block. I shut down my email for the afternoon work blocks. When I got to my break, I checked my emails and surprisingly, there were no new messages!

One advantage of having this time blocking routine is that it helps me avoid those moments in the day when I’m thinking: “What am I going to do next?”. In these moments I usually get distracted or anxious and suffer from decision paralysis.

So far, I’m enjoying time blocking! It gives structure to my day.

Here is a snapshot of today’s plan:

#productivity #timeblocking #planning #work #journal

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I didn’t plan all my blocks first thing in the morning today. There was an urgent request from my manager when I arrived, so I spent the first 1h30min dealing with this task.

After that, I looked at my notes from yesterday and I noted that I still needed to finish clarifying and organizing a bunch of new inputs I got this week. So I blocked that off, then I had an appointment with my therapist. And that was basically my morning.

But I had a nice conversation with my therapist about attention and focus, and how to best use time blocking.

One of the discussion points was: “Why do I avoid planning my whole day at the beginning of the day?”

One of the reasons is that I’m afraid of the commitment, and I’m afraid to fail. That damn perfectionist tendency!

And it will take practice for me to get used to failing. In these 3 days, I changed my plan at least 4 times each day. And that’s okay ( I keep telling myself).

Another good insight was the use of time blocks that represent different mental modes, and different types of focus. For example:

  • Emails: to check and process emails. Instead of having emails open all the time, schedule dedicated time blocks to act on them.
  • Planning: to plan the day, clarify and organize. The end-of-day shutdown routine is included here.
  • Work block: blocks to focus on my tasks. In this mode, no checking of emails or messages is allowed. The choice of tasks to work on will come from my next action lists. Time to use the Pomodoro technique here!
  • Snack/Breaks/Lunch: using in conjunction with the Pomodoro technique. Plan for some short and long breaks. Lunch break is mandatory!
  • Meetings/Appointments: those are already in my Calendar, I just need to acknowledge them and show up when the time comes. They can impact how many “work” blocks I can have in a day.
  • Calls: a block to deal with the calls I have to make, pulling from the @calls context on my next action list. I won’t have this block every day, it depends on my project’s timeline.
  • Admin/Misc tasks: a block to deal with quick/easy wins and miscellaneous tasks. I don’t need to have it every day, my therapist suggested I choose one day of the week for it, maybe two.

Looking at these “mental modes” it became clearer to me the advantages of time blocking. I’ve had many days when I was constantly switching back and forth between these modes, but I was never focusing on one at a time. That resulted in a stressful day, with my attention scattered everywhere and no accomplishments.

A snapshot of today’s plan:

Day 03 – It was going to start with some Planning & Organizing, but I had to put out a fire early in the day. I had to readjust, and some tasks had to be moved to the next day.

I will think more about those modes, and try to come up with a “skeleton time block” structure for my week. What is my typical week? How many “work” and “emails” blocks I want or need every day? Then I just adjust week by week and day by day depending on the reality of that week.

#productivity #timeblocking #planning #work #journal

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I have been struggling with scattered focus during my work hours, constantly changing contexts, checking emails, and feeling overwhelmed. And I know it’s because there’s a lot going on right now. I find it difficult to decide what to do next when I look at my to-do lists.

I’ve used the Pomodoro technique with great success in the past. It’s basically a way to train attention, where you set up a timer for 25 minutes of focused work. It needs to be total focus, for the full 25 minutes: no checking email, no answering the phone, no talking to anybody. And then you take 5 minutes of rest. You do 4 cycles, then you rest for 15 minutes (long rest). I love this technique! It works really well for my brain.

However, now I'm having trouble DECIDING what to do and STARTING!

So, I'm trying out Time Blocking, using the suggestions from Cal Newport's book “Deep Work.” At some point during the pandemic, I even purchased his Time Block Planner: a paper planner customized with the way he recommends doing time blocking. At the time I used it for a week, but I thought it was too bulky to use.

But now, I’m really into doing some things using pen and paper. I feel like I can focus better, specially if I’m planning something or brainstorming ideas. So I got my Time Block Planner from the shelf and started using it again this week.

The Weekly and Daily Plans

This Time Block Planner is organized in weeks, so at the start of the week you have 2 blank pages to do some weekly planning. It’s a way to look at your commitments for the week, evaluate the amount of meetings, and do some high level planning of which projects or activities to focus on every day. It is not supposed to be detailed, it’s more like a direction for the week.

Then at the start of the work day, you make a daily plan, giving every minute of the day a job. You use the weekly plan as a guide. But you also review your calendar and look at your next actions list to decide what to focus on.

The interesting thing about Cal Newport’s planner is that you have space to renegotiate your plan in case of changes. Things will blow up, meetings will be rescheduled, and you are encouraged to rethink your daily plan and adjust it.

How it’s been so far

I started yesterday, a Monday after a long weekend. Mondays are the worst for me. I always feel overwhelmed and tired. I can never achieve anything I thought I would achieve.

The first hurdle I encountered was the decision paralysis. I couldn’t decide what to do in the morning. I scheduled half an hour first thing to make my plan. It wasn’t enough time. It didn’t help that I had 2 back to back meetings after that, and two more in the afternoon. I didn’t finish my plan, I basically updated it as I went, so it was not really planning in advance. It wasn’t a great day for deep work anyway, but I managed to complete 2 shorter tasks with the time I had in between meetings.

Today, I’m half a day in, and I planned the morning, which already changed 3 times. Then by noon I planned the afternoon. It was scary to write it down, like I wasn’t sure I could make it.

I’m discovering that I have difficulty planning ahead. For me, the future seems a homogeneous haze. I know it’s there, but I can’t really put a date to it. I am discovering that I have difficulty planning ahead in the immediate timeframe. Long-term, high-level planning is easier for me.

I will continue practicing with the Time Block Planner. It is giving me a better sense of time, and I am realizing that tasks take longer to complete than I initially thought. Sometimes I will mark 10 actions as my focus for the day, but realistically, I can only complete 1 or 2. Time blocking is helping me slow down, and slowing down is key for processing information and planning.

#productivity #timeblocking #planning #work #journal

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

  1. The Blacksmith Queen (The Scarred Earth Saga #1) by G.A. Aiken, 304p: Not what I was expecting. It caught my attention because of the strong female characters (women blacksmiths), but the writing style didn't please me. It follows the trope of the death of a ruler and then a prophecy that will point to the new heir. It has brutal and bloody battle scenes that were treated so childishly as if they were of no consequence. It uses an amusing tone for everything (even violence), and that bothered me.

  2. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, 507p: It's a well-crafted murder mystery. It was fun to try to figure out who was the killer. It's complicated, there are lots of moving pieces, but it all fits together in the end. There are a lot of characters, tho! I started a list, and I got to at least 30. It was hard to keep track of everything. I felt a lack of emotional connection to the characters, and the mystery itself kept me engaged. It reminded me of puzzle games, and it was a book that I loved thinking about while I was not reading it. Also, it was excellent for a Book Club session!

  3. How to Be a Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More and Love What You Do by Graham Allcott, 368p: Lots of good advice in this book, but it clearly uses most of the ideas from David Allen, who wrote “Getting Things Done” (which I've read more than once). So for me, there weren't too many new things added to my toolbox. It was fun because the author uses ninja references and imagery to get his point across.

  4. Dance with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #3) by Kit Rocha, 352p: I loved this series, I loved the characters and their positive overall mindset to try to make their dystopian futuristic reality a better world. This one was faster-paced than the second one but not overly so. It had a good rhythm, alternating between world-building, the big plot to turn down big corporations, and the characters' personal drama. The romance is not cringy, sex scenes are very well written. I would read more stories in this universe! Hopefully the author writes one more.

  5. Life is Hard: How Philosophy Can Help Us Find Our Way by Kieran Setiya, 222p: I listened to the audiobook, and for me the beginning and the end were good, I wasn't as interested in the middle chapters. It brings some philosophical discussions about grief, happiness, hope, and the meaning of life. I enjoyed the reference to the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

#readinglist #books #reading

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Today, I am feeling better than I have in a long time. It's like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I can breathe again. I've been on a journey to get my pieces back together, and it's been a slow process, but I am getting there.

One of the things that has helped me feel better is doing puzzles. I used to love puzzles, but I stopped doing them a long time ago. I used to do it with my partner, we would gather in the evenings and spend some time doing puzzles while chatting or listening to music. Recently, we decided to give it a try again, and I'm so glad we did. There's something therapeutic about the process of putting the pieces together, and it helps me relax and take my mind off things. It is also an analog activity, something I do with my hands and away from bright screens. It’s been very nourishing!

We have it on a table in the living room and once in a while we will stop and do a little bit, fitting one piece here and there, or we get together in the evening, put on some music, and do it together for an hour or so. There is no rush, we take several weeks to finish a puzzle. The first one we took 3 months to finish! We are on our second one, it’s a gorgeous art inspired by the Chinese myth: “The Jade Dragon”, and some say it’s the origin story of the Chinese lantern festival.

“Le Dragon de Jade” – 1,000 pieces puzzle – by

Getting puzzle pieces together has helped me get MY pieces together and just enjoy the moment. It helps me shift my attention away from negative thoughts and onto something that is enjoyable and calming. It also feels very meditative, which is great for my brain!

#journal #puzzles

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Every once in a while I feel unsatisfied about how I am managing my projects and tasks. It’s a recurring thing and I know now that perfectionism has some of the blame. Looking back at all my past iterations, I’ve used the Nirvana app the most over the years. I stick with it for a while, then I see something shinier, experiment with the new app, only to go back to Nirvana again.

My last distraction was Microsoft To Do. The company I work for transitioned to Microsoft for everything: emails, files, calendars, chat, meetings, the whole system. I was already familiar with Outlook and OneDrive, but Microsoft To Do was new to me. So I tried it. I can say that I tried it at least 4 times over the last year. Not to mention the times I tried Todoist as well. I believe the sequence was:

  • Aug, 2021: First test of MS To Do. I didn’t like it.
  • Sep, 2021: I tried Todoist (not for the first time). I got overwhelmed by all the tags/filters options (not the first time this happened…)
  • Oct, 2021: Back to MS To Do. Maybe I can make it work? Also, emojis are so cute!
  • Jan, 2022: I got back to good old Nirvana. So simple and organized! 😎
  • May, 2022: Tried MS To Do again. Can I let go of having the next actions linked to projects? The UI is so beautiful, and tasks can show up alongside Outlook or even inside my calendar. Cool!
  • June, 2022: Things got out of control, I was handling a lot of projects at once at work so I went back to Nirvana to gain some clarity. I also noticed I barely used the integrations with Outlook Calendar.
  • Sep, 2022: But it would be so cool to have my emails integrated with my tasks! Wouldn’t it? The emojis were cute 🤩 So, back to MS To Do, trying to manage 2 separate accounts (personal and work).
  • Oct, 2022: It was too much overhead to have two separate MS To Do accounts, I didn’t know which Inbox to put things in, I constantly neglected one or the other and things started to get off the rails. So back to my trusted tool: Nirvana ⭐.
  • Jan, 2023: I read somewhere about new Todoist features coming up and I tried it again. I created a brand new account, got the Premium subscription, and set it up just to feel like it wasn’t for me anymore. In less than 20 days I cancelled my account and asked for a refund. Again, I had too many options to customize it and it became very distracting.
  • Feb, 2023: I decided to solve the 2 accounts issue with MS To Do, by using the lists sharing feature between my personal and work accounts. It was okay, but I still thought it was confusing to have 2 inboxes. Also, since in MS To Do we have to use the “Tasks” folder as the Inbox, I noticed this cognitive discomfort of not having an actual “Inbox” there. It may sound like a petty detail, but it really bothers me! Capturing is something I struggle with and having any sort of resistance destroys my ability to get things out of my head.
  • Mar, 2023 (aka, Today): I moved back to Nirvana! It just felt like home. I know how it works, things have their specific places, and I trust it more in the end😍.

I decided to write this timeline to try to understand why I was jumping from tool to tool. It became clear that Nirvana was the to-do list manager I used for the longest time because I like it! And so I’m making a decision to continue using it, even though sometimes I miss some colors and emojis.

Looking back I can say that when my life got busy I would always rely on Nirvana to manage all my commitments. It gives me the type of clarity I can’t really find in other tools.

So I’m making a personal commitment to not distract myself again and to stick with Nirvana for at least a year! Focus! 🎯

#GTD #Nirvana #Productivity

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Only after putting this list together I realised that my fiction reads were all romances! All of them lighthearted, hopeful and relaxing.

I totally failed at finishing a book for my local Book Club because it was a grim-dark fantasy from the 80’s and I couldn’t get past the second chapter. Well, I guess I needed some lightness this month. No regrets.

  1. Legends & Lattes (Legends & Lattes #1) by Travis Baldree, 318p: This is a book that made me happy. It's a cozy fantasy and I loved every word of it. An orc barbarian decides to retire and open a coffee shop. That's it! And I loved following her steps, from acquiring a place, renovating, getting the coffee machines, finding friends, and baking delicious cinnamon rolls and pastries in her coffee shop. Friendship with romance and all the good vibes.

  2. The Devil You Know (Mercenary Librarians #2) by Kit Rocha, 416p: I'm enjoying this post-apocalyptic world quite a lot because although it's a dark reality, the series focus on the group of characters that are trying to make the world a better place. This second book was hopeful and had some intense character development. I’ll read the next one for sure!

  3. Below Zero (The STEMinist Novellas #3) by Ali Hazelwood, 121p: Another adorable romance story with a female scientist. This time the protagonist works for NASA on one of the Mars rovers project (super nerdy), a big misunderstanding, a rescue mission on an island in the Arctic Ocean, and, yes, romance. I had a good time.

  4. Winning the Week: How To Plan A Successful Week, Every Week by Demir Bentley, 269p: This book covers detailed steps on how to plan our weeks so that it gets done regularly. I learned a few things that I will start implementing in my own routine. The most valuable message for me was the idea that I need to accept my reality:

“…look at your life with zero wishful thinking. Be able to see when a timeline isn't realistic and accept that reality without getting emotional.”.

It talks a lot about perfectionism and encourages us to ask ourselves what “good enough” looks like and where we can accept a lower level of quality and move forward. I thought there were too many steps to the process, tho. I'm not sure I would go ahead and plan EVERY hour of my week in advance, as the method seems to suggest. I prefer to do daily planning and allocate time for tasks on a day-to-day basis.

#readinglist #books #reading

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

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